The Most Magical Place on Earth Part 1
Hubby and I have tried to take at least one special vacation each year since we met. During my pregnancy and Micah’s infancy, our plans were a little derailed. We decided when Micah turned two we would be ready to resume our travels. After very little deliberation, we knew the destination for Micah’s first real vacation was obvious -Walt Disney World, of course! We wanted to make sure he had a magical and memorable experience. I ‘m not sure either one of us realized how much planning was involved in creating that magic!
Having lived in South Florida as a young adult, it was not uncommon for me to plan a spontaneous trip to the “house of mouse.” In fact, I can remember one Friday evening when my girlfriends and I had nothing planned, so we threw some stuff in the car and headed up Florida’s Turnpike. It was only after we arrived in the Orlando area that we found out there was a huge automobile convention in town that left very few options for hotel rooms. After hours of driving around we finally found a vacancy sign at a dive motel that would make my skin crawl if I was ever faced with staying there today. The point I am not so eloquently making is that while I was more than familiar with Disney, I had very little experience with actually planning a trip. Add in one very special little toddler, and I had my work cut out for me.
I sat down to plan and was overwhelmed with the options facing me. Do we travel by plane or by car? Should we stay at an onsite resort or save money by staying offsite? Luxury, moderate, or value priced hotel? Would we be better off purchasing one-day tickets or adding in the park-hopper option? Do you really save money by using the Disney dining plan? There was no shortage of websites with resources and message board forums with information- lots and lots of information. My head was spinning! The same week I began my initial Disney research, I was interviewing a women for a job who mentioned she had recently become an authorized Disney travel agent as a way to earn additional income. We continued with the interview and I later walked out with her and asked if she could contact me via my personal email. We never did get to work together in a professional capacity, but later that week she became my personal Disney consultant. Serendipity!
I was so happy to have met Tina. It turns out she enjoyed the planning process for her family’s annual Disney vacation so much that she began helping friends sort through the sea of information. When she learned she could actually make money doing this, she jumped at the opportunity and I am glad she did! Through email and phone calls, Tina was able to help us identify our objectives for Micah’s Disney trip. She sent me a detailed document with in-depth information about several hotels in our budget range and included pros and cons of each. She suggested we move our trip by two days so we could be eligible for FREE Disney dining which saved hundreds of dollars. We gladly obliged, and our trip was booked! The best part was since Micah was under 3 years old, he would receive free entrance to the park and we were not required to purchase dining for him. Had I done this on my own, I would have missed the free dining and we would have stuck with our original dates which were selected rather haphazardly anyway.
Once we booked our resort stay, it was time to look at advanced dining reservations. Apparently, with the advent of the Disney dining plan many of the most popular restaurants book up six months out-seriously!? Being somewhat of a foodie, I was looking forward to this part of the process. This is where I was happy to read review after review of the best places to get Mickey-shaped eats and which places were best to avoid. I conferred with Tina on our selections and she took care of booking the dining for us and even suggested a couple of places we had left out. Once reservations were made, she sent us a sample park itinerary for our trip with even more first-hand knowledge of “do’s and don’ts .” It was like a Disney dream come true!
As I sit here and detail our planning process this far, I am surrounded by guidebooks, luggage, and lots of “tricks” for our impending eight-hour car ride with a toddler. We are so looking forward to this vacation and the ups and downs it will bring. Hubby and I have discussed the importance of setting realistic expectations. There will be a meltdown or two (hopefully not more!) We will probably let him skip a nap and eat candied something-or-other against our better judgment which will set in motion the previously mentioned meltdown(s). We know we will want to do more than we can possibly fit in to each day without over-stimulating our little man. We have vowed to let it all roll off our backs and remember this trip is for our Micah. At home, we have been reading books and watching shows featuring the Disney characters in preparation for the trip. Micah especially loves when we talk like Donald and it is adorable when he tries to do it, too! Not surprisingly, he has a soft spot for the master of the land, “Mi-hee” mouse! I’ll be blogging more about our trip when we return from the world where magic happens- that is if we ever come home!